Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer

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Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer
Born Mariana Alley Griswold
(1851-02-21)February 21, 1851
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 20, 1934(1934-01-20) (aged 82)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Columbia University
Occupation Critic and writer
Spouse(s) Schuyler Van Rensselaer (m. 1873; his death 1884)
Children George Griswold Van Rensselaer
Parent(s) George Griswold
Lydia Alley
Awards American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal
Bronze relief portrait of Mariana Griswold by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1888. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer (February 21, 1851 – January 20, 1934), usually known as Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer or M. G. Van Rensselaer, was an American author focusing on architectural criticism.

Early life[edit]

Mariana Alley Griswold was born in New York City on February 21, 1851. She was the daughter of George Griswold and Lydia (née Alley) Griswold (1826–1908).[1] Her younger brothers were Frank Gray Griswold (1855–1937), the stepfather of Cass Canfield, and George Griswold (1857–1917), the Vice President and General Manager of the Tuxedo Park Association.[2][3]

In 1868, she moved with her family to Dresden, Germany, where she remained for five years.[4]


She began writing in 1876.[5] The first woman architectural critic, she grew in influence in the 1880s.[6] However, her publications encompassed also art and landscape architecture criticism, fiction, and children's literature.[4] She wrote articles in American Art Review, Century Magazine, and Garden and Forest (in which she wrote many unattributed articles)[4] [7] After refuting an offer to edit the American Art Review in 1881, she began writing for Century Magazine.[4] She advocated that the public should view architectural works not as just the work of the individual firm owners, but the entire firm (particularly in reference to McKim, Mead, and White),[4] and preferred architectural training at colleges for create intellectual and genteel architects, rather than the on-the-job training which was common at the time.[4]

Around 1890, Van Rensselaer garnered an honorary membership to the American Institute of Architects, and in 1920 to the American Society of Landscape Architects [4][8] In 1910, she received the degree of D. Litt. from Columbia University,[8] the accomplishment being an extraordinary one for a woman at that time. She was awarded the 1923 American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal.[4] In 1915, in honor of deceased son, she donated a collection of reproductions of frescoes, vases, and other objects which illustrate the prehistoric culture of Greece to Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University.[9]

Van Rensselaer also served a number of charitable organisations, including University Settlement Women's Auxiliary (president from 1896-1898), Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement, and the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.[4] She was president of the Public Education Association of New York from 1899-1906.[4] Although she did vote in 1893 while living in Colorado, she later was involved with New York State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage for Women.[4]

Personal life[edit]

In 1873, she married Schuyler Van Rensselaer (1845–1884) of the prominent Van Rensselaer family. Together, they lived in New Brunswick, New Jersey. They had one child, born in February 1875, before her husband, a mining engineer, died in 1884.[4]

  • George Griswold Van Rensselaer (1875–1894), who died before his twentieth birthday and was a member of Harvard University's class of 1896.[9]

Van Rensselaer died away while in New York City on January 20, 1934.[10] She was buried next to her husband and only child at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.[11]


Her writings include:


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1889). "Van Rensselaer, Mariana Griswold". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  2. ^ "George Griswold". The New York Times. 19 March 1917. Retrieved 12 January 2018. 
  3. ^ "GEORGE GRISWOLD 2D'S WILL.; Estate Divided Among Relatives and Friends -- Mother Residuary Legatee". The New York Times. 24 March 1903. Retrieved 12 January 2018. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McLeod, Mary and Rosner, Victoria. "Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer". Pioneering Women of American Architecture. 
  5. ^ [1] Archived July 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Sarah Allaback (2008). The First American Women Architects. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-03321-6. 
  7. ^ Major, Judith K. (2013). Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer a landscape critic in the gilded age. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. p. 207. ISBN 0813934559. 
  8. ^ a b Roth, Leland M. (2011). "Van Rensselaer, Mariana Griswold". In Joan Marter. The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art. Oxford University Press. 
  9. ^ a b "Art Gift by Mrs. Van Rensselaer". The New York Times. 14 November 1915. Retrieved 12 January 2018. 
  10. ^ "MRS. VAN RENSSELAER, ART AUTHORITY, DIES; Noted Critic, 82, Also Was Author of History of Early New York and a School Leader". The New York Times. January 21, 1934. Retrieved 12 January 2018. 
  11. ^ Gilder, Joseph B. (January 26, 1934). "AN EMINENT NEW YORKER. The Late Mrs., Schuyler Van Rensselaer Was a Distinguished Author". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 January 2018. 
  12. ^ Luther S. Harris (2003). Around Washington Square. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-7341-6. 


  • "American Country Dwellings." Parts I-III. The Century Magazine. 1886.

Further reading[edit]

  • Judith K. Major. Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer: A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age (University of Virginia Press; 2013) 302 pages; scholarly biography

External links[edit]